From the syllabus: "In this class, we go beyond the headlines to discuss the history and cultures of peoples who have had to endure terrible suffering, particularly through ethnic conflict and civil war. We will focus on a curious phenomenon: populations typically defined as separate from one another (think: Israelis and Palestinians) often have a history of shared or related cultural practices, of which music is a prime example. We will survey a number of current and recent conflict zones and use music as a way to deepen our understanding of the identities and relationships between the peoples involved—including through a consideration of my own fieldwork in Sri Lanka. Querying the very definitions of “music,” “trouble,” and “place,” the course also broadens out to consider how musicians have been affected by and/or have responded to important global problems like slavery, sexual violence, and ecological disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. Regions to be considered in our lectures and/or readings include: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria (including Kurdish musics), Israel-Palestine, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Myanmar/Burma, Uganda, Sierra Leone, North and South Korea, the Marshall Islands, Cambodia, Mexico, and the United States. While covering political and social ills, the course nevertheless provides students with perspectives on everyday life and traditional culture in places (like Afghanistan and Myanmar) that are rarely considered in the U.S. mainstream media."
In each session of the course, we not only focus on political problems, we focus on human and communal perspectives through examining the musics of a particular culture.